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Daniel Isn't Real


Stars: Miles Robbins, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sasha Lane, Mary Stuart Masterson, Peter McRobbie, Nathan Reid, Griffin Robert Faulkner

Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer

An unrelenting portrait of a disintegrating mind. Luke (Faulkner), fleeing from the constant rowing of his parents, invents an imaginary friend, Daniel, who at first seems an ideal playmate. But things take a darker turn when Daniel (Reid) tells Luke to give his mother a bottle of pills that will turn her into 'supermum', but in practice only make her almost terminally ill. She insists that Luke locks Daniel away in his distinctly spooky playhouse.

Flash forward 15 years and Crazy Mama has long since been consigned to the local asylum. Stressed out by his father's lecherous lifestyle and by his own law studies, and consumed by fears and loneliness, Luke (now Robbins) unwisely lets Daniel (a handsome but decidedly sinister Schwarzenegger) out of the playhouse.

His life and mental control quickly move into a downward spiral, as he increasingly comes under Daniel's malign spell.

The film strikes a frenzied tone from the get-go and doesn't deviate from it throughout, down to an almost inevitable ending. The horror elements are perhaps over-emphasised, but mostly this is a quite gripping portrait of incipient madness.

Schwarzenegger, son of Arnie, is convincingly sleek and nasty, but the real star turn here is Robbins', especially when turning into an uncanny likeness of Daniel towards the end.

Audiences should be advised that there's an extended sequence of flashing strobe lighting soon after the beginning of the film.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Arrow Films. Colour by Company 3.
99 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Feb 2020